Archive for the ‘Sociocultural conventions’ Category

At the X line with remarkably named pornstars

July 6, 2013

(Warning: This posting has an image of man-man sex that is right at the X line — that’s one of the topics of the posting, in fact — and some frank description of gay sex, so it might not be to everyone’s taste.)

In my e-mail yesterday, a stirring ad from Lucas Entertainment (Michael Lucas’s porn flick company, not George Lucas’s film company) for its film Lovers in Paradise, with a shot of Wagner Vittoria penetrating Tiziano Fuentes — an image that I’ll show some distance below the fold; it’s technically not X-rated (there’s no penis, testicles, or anus visible in it), though no one could mistake what’s going on there. As in my posting “X or not?” of 5/19/13, I’ll muse some on where the X line gets drawn.

First, though, a description of the scene and some information about three remarkably named pornstars (these two and Vittoria’s pornstar boyfriend Diego Lauzen).


X or not?

May 19, 2013

A few days ago, an intense Benno Thoma postcard from Max Vasilatos (in an envelope), with the note: “This could probably go in the regular mail, but I’m taking no chances.” The issue is whether the image counts as X-rated or not; Max and I fairly often puzzle over the categorization of images, sometimes for the purpose of mailing and sometimes for the purpose of posting in certain places on the net (like this blog). The line isn’t clear.

First, the case at hand. Then, some general discussion.


Two mother songs

May 19, 2013

From a posting that started with the shapenote song Family Circle (#333 in the Sacred Harp, Denson Revision):

At shapenote singing on Sunday (which was Mothers Day), we sang a fair number of songs with mother in their texts. Some are decidedly odd, but one was an old friend, Family Circle (the music is included in my posting on “Come Thou Fount”; “And rejoice, O my mother” is in the chorus).

On to two of the odd songs: the sentimental The Dying Boy (#398) and the touching The Bride’s Farewell (#359b) — two songs that are very rarely sung.


Annals of insult crimes

May 18, 2013

In my last foray into insult crimes, the legally actional insults were directed againt religion (the Russian Orthodox Church, Islam). Of course, in many countries, speech that’s perceived as denigrating a ruler is actionable. Which brings me to this NYT news flash on the 16th:

A Bahraini court jailed six people for a year on Wednesday for insulting King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa in messages on Twitter, the official news agency said.

The six were accused of posting remarks “undermining the values and traditions of Bahrain’s society towards the king on Twitter,” the head of the public prosecutor’s office, Nayef Youssef, said in a statement reported by the Bahrain News Agency. He said freedom of opinion and expression were guaranteed by the Constitution, law and international conventions, but should not be used in a way that contradicted the norms of society. The news agency gave no further information about the six.

Of course, the agency gave no information about what they said on Twitter, because that would be to disseminate the insult.

What struck me especially was the claim that Bahrain guaranteed freedom of opinion and expression — but only insofar as people conform to the norms of society. There is a genuine tug here between two different core values (a great many jurisdictions regulate obscenity in certain contexts, for example), but an appeal to “the norms of society” can easily be stretched to ban any unpopular or embarrassing expression of ideas. So just citing norms in a general way won’t do.


Vocabulary surprises

May 17, 2013

For some purposes, you can function fairly well with material in another language, so long as the topic stays within domains that are familiar to you — like linguistics, say. But when you wander into other domains, especially those that are closely tied to sociocultural conventions, things get messy, even if you stick to nouns; there’s just so much to know about cultural artifacts and customs, for example, and a huge vocabulary to acquire in these areas, in the names of animals and plants, etc.

I can deal pretty well with technical material in French, for example, but I’m easily stumped when it comes to artifacts, animals, plants, and the like. By way of illustration: my daughter gave me a big box of postcards on The Art of Instruction, with images of school materials from the 1950s, from mostly French but also some German sources. The German items have no text, but the French material (from Éditions Rossignol — the name is great; rossignol means ‘nightingale’) is heavy with text. For animals and plants, much of the vocabulary is technical teminology from zoology, anatomy, or botany, and that’s fascinating, but I can’t be expected to know these expressions. However, there are also the common names for animals and plants, and they contain many surprises.

That brings me to the tadpole.


A matter of size

January 12, 2013

(Mostly about sexuality/sex, rather than language.)

[TMI Warning: The following posting contains information, opinion, or reflection that some readers might find uncomfortably or unwelcomely personal, private, or intimate in topic or content: too much information, as the saying goes. As a general observation, I’m willing to go almost anywhere in my postings, including some places that some readers don’t want to go.]

From the NYT Magazine “The Lives They Lived” section of  12/30/12, on Paul Fussell (born 1924), by Dwight Garner:

The most profound tectonic shift in our literary culture in 2012 was one that, by and large, no one noticed. The last of our great curmudgeonly essayists — Gore Vidal, the art critic Robert Hughes and the historian and social critic Paul Fussell — died this year. Add to this list of punishing, witty and literate writers Christopher Hitchens, who died at the end of 2011, and it begins to seem as if the Mayan calendar, which predicted global ruin, took aim instead at our stinging public intellectuals, our necessary horseflies.

… In 1987, the inspired editors of GQ magazine sent Fussell to a far-flung nudist colony, and the resulting essay, “Taking It All Off in the Balkans,” is something to behold. It contains dozens of memorable observations. Among them: “Fat people look far less offensive naked than clothed. Clothes, you realize, have the effect of sausage casings.” About penis size, Fussell said: “You will learn that every man looks roughly the same — quite small, that is, and that heroic fixtures are not just extremely rare, they are deformities.”

All true. But there’s a a whole complex world in which this deformity, this abnormality, is celebrated and venerated: the world of gay male fantasy, especially as represented in gay porn imagery. A place where the gigantic and grotesque are worshiped. Case in point: the pornstar Ken Ryker.


Barbara Kruger

November 24, 2012

On the op-ed page of the NYT today, this Barbara Kruger piece (“For Sale”) to celebrate the great American commercial holiday of Black Friday (yesterday):

I was astonished to discover that I hadn’t posted about Kruger before. Time to remedy this.


Please remove your cats

October 26, 2012

I posted on Facebook yesterday during World Series game 2:

Seventh inning stretch, and the customary musical interlude. What I *heard* was that we were instructed to take off our cats for the singing of “God Bless America”. You would have thought that “caps” was so over-determined in this context that no one could mis-hear it, but I somehow managed.

If, however, you were wearing a cat, I suppose it would have been a patriotic gesture to take it off.

My original point was about mishearing something that should have been entirely clear in context; in contrast, so many mishearings involve infrequent or unexpected bits of text, especially in conditions of some noise (for instance, when the material is sung — hence the many mondegreens in lyrics). But Facebook being a social medium, things drifted fast — to music during the seventh inning stretch and to cats perching on people’s heads.


Useful but rare vocabulary

September 29, 2012

On ADS-L on the 27th, Victor Steinbok noted the rarity of the useful adjective mononymous (and nouns mononym and mononymy) — cf. homonymous, synonymous, antonymous, etc.  From Paul McFedries’s WordSpy entry (posted 7/18/98):

adj. Describes a person who uses only one name. [or the name itself -- AMZ]
Example Citation: “The mononymous Cafu is a defender for Brazil, the world’s most stylish and self-absorbed collection of athletes, a team aptly described by one Brazilian newspaper as a ‘cauldron of vanities.’ ” —Steve Rushin, “Tour de France,” Sports Illustrated

For example, Socrates, Cher, Banksy, Pelé, Batman, to choose people from various walks of life.

The Rushin cite is the only one Victor found in dictionaries for the word. The alternative McFedries suggests, uninomial, seems not to be any more frequent than mononymous (with reference to personal names, that is; see below). Other alternatives are longer but less technical-sounding  (e.g., “a philosopher with a one-word name” instead of “a mononymous philosopher”).

For whatever reason, the technical vocabulary seems not to have caught on, even though it would sometimes be useful to have such a brief (mononymous!) term. But of course nothing obliges speakers to opt for brevity, against other considerations (like the naturalness of ordinary vocabulary).


Calvin x 3

August 31, 2012

From the Best of Calvin and Hobbes site, three strips: on inattention and question-answering; on phone answering as a linguistic routine; and on indirect speech acts.



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